Blog Update

Hello, lovely human people!

I’m sorry…. I’ve been away for a long time. I’ve been very unwell, so trying to balance work, applying for PhD’s and being very sick has been a challenge. In between meetings, doctors appointments and life in general, I’ve not really had the time or energy to blog.

Things are starting to look better now, I’m less tired and have a bit more motivation. I’m hoping getting back on my blog will help me to start up writing academically more too. It’s just rather difficult to get up the motivation to write when you feel like you have pillows wrapped around your brain, attached to concrete slabs dragging you down to the bottom of the sea. I honestly have been finding it very difficult to read as well, which is SO not me! Finishing a book has been a marathon effort in the last few months, as I can’t maintain interest and energy, so reading makes me fall asleep. I’ve read loads of *bits* of books, but very few full ones.

I’m trying. I’ll come back. I’m too strong to let my own body beat myself.

chronic-illness-cat-meme-generator-get-sudden-burst-of-energy-accomplish-entire-to-do-list-spend-next-week-in-bed-trying-to-recover-from-doing-too-much-629ff5

Top Ten Tuesday: Books on my Autumn TBR List

91e47-toptentuesday

I’m godawful at sticking to TBR lists, but sometimes I’m forced to by outside forces… in this case, a PhD application. But I still have books that I want to read anyway!

 

  1. The Green Road by Anne Enright

I’ve heard nothing but great things about this book, and despite beginning The Gathering earlier this year and dropping it, the bits I’ve read seem to connect better with me in this book than that. Really wasn’t a fan of the narrative voice of The Gathering!

2. Small Acts of Disappearance by Fiona Wright

I go to the same uni as Fiona Wright, who just submitted her own PhD application (go girl!) AND she’s a mythical beast who did it spot on 3 years… PLUS this collection of essays has been shortlisted for the Stella prize!

3. The Victorians by A.N. Wilson

I love the Victorian era, and want more background knowledge for my work about sections of society that I perhaps haven’t explored as yet.

4. Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit

As further reading on my feminism quest, this sounds awesome, and is delightfully short… easy to fit in around my masses of other stuff!

5. Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

I’ve heard this isn’t as good as A Discovery of Witches, but I will probably need something light and fluffy to read!

Uni Reads….

6. Works by Jean Rhys:

Quartet

Wide Sargasso Sea

Tigers are Better Looking

Sleep it off, Lady

Smile, Please

Letters 1931-1966

 

7. Works by Colette

Gigi and the Cat

Cheri and the Last of Cheri

My Apprenticeships and Music Hall Sidelights

Retreat from Love

The Complete Claudine

The Vagabond 

Chance Encounters

 

8. Jean Rhys by Carole Angier

9. The Blue Hour  by Lilian Pizzicini

10. Colette by Judith Thurman

 

Oh my god… no way am I getting through that. No way in hell!

*curls up and rocks slowly*

Wish me luck! At least some of them are quite little!

Book Blogger Test

what are your top three book pet hates?

1. Deckled edging. I loathe it! It makes the book feel revolting and it’s hard to find your page. Dislike!

2. Insta-love. EVERYONE hates this. Why do authors keep doing it?! It’s so annoying and really puts me off new releases with a romantic bent to them, especially when that character has their love interest walk in 3 pages into the book and you KNOW what’s going to happen. SUBTLETY, PEOPLE! PLEASE!!!

3. Really hideous covers that are either too ugly to look twice at, or are just downright embarrassing to take out in public. Like my edition of Robert Graves’ I, Claudius, that has a naked woman writhing on it. Or my copy of Rebecca West’s The Meaning of Treason… Which I’m sure is an obvious public transport no-no. I actually asked for my money back when it arrived in the mail, because I had no idea that it looked like that! The picture showed an innocuous red edition and this is definitely not that!wpid-20150724_220324.jpg

 

describe your perfect reading spot

Outside, in the shade, in a comfy chair, with a nice breeze. Or snuggled up in a blanket with a hot chocolate or a cup of tea. Preferably with comfy clothes and a nearby cat.

tell us three book confessions

1. I often don’t add what I’m reading to Goodreads until I’m past halfway, because I get guilty for dropping books and it showing up on Goodreads!

2. I read a lot of tough books, so I often crave something easy, lighthearted and fun… but then I find it harder to get back into the tough stuff again! But if I don’t read easy things periodically, my brain goes into meltdown… it’s a double edged sword.

3.  I can’t speak or read French, so I have such a hard time with modernist books due to the amount of French in them! Google translate is my best friend. I can read Italian quite well, but I’ve only been able to use it once!

 

when was the last time you cried during a book?

At the end of The Ballroom by Anna Hope! My manthing went to brush his teeth and came back to find me sobbing!

how many books are on your bedside table?

God knows. Both at my house and my fiancee’s, we are facing potential book avalanche. Only at mine I tend to stack them next to the bed.

what is your favourite snack to eat while you’re reading?

Kit kats and soup! Especially miso soup. Also tea.

Yesterday I tried to read a newspaper and eat a whole quarter of a watermelon (without cutting it up) and it ended reeeeeallly badly. Fun times!

name three books you would recommend to everyone

 

Ohhh…. that’s hard!

The Midnight Watch by David Dyer

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovich

show us a picture of your favourite bookshelf on your bookcase

wpid-wp-1440049972071.jpeg

This was taken a few months ago… there is no more space on it now. All double stacked!

write how much books mean to you in just three words

My whole existence.

what is your biggest reading secret?

I am a huge stress head about certain books, and will work myself up into a frenzy of terror about reading certain things if I think they’re going to be hard… then if I do read it, I scare myself into not finishing (hello, Middlemarch… I’m sorry!) or find that it’s tough, but doable, like Parade’s EndI think I just have a fear of inferiority and I’m very self deprecating in general, so that just rolls over into my reading life. My friends are always telling me to stop beating myself up over absolutely everything!

Review: The Ballroom by Anna Hope

26797014

Where love is your only escape ….

1911: Inside an asylum at the edge of the Yorkshire moors,
where men and women are kept apart
by high walls and barred windows,
there is a ballroom vast and beautiful.
For one bright evening every week
they come together
and dance.
When John and Ella meet
It is a dance that will change
two lives forever.

Set over the heatwave summer of 1911, the end of the Edwardian era, THE BALLROOM is a tale of unlikely love and dangerous obsession, of madness and sanity, and of who gets to decide which is which.

This book will probably cause a big bang when it is released, and I think it’s definitely worth it. I was hooked from the get-go and couldn’t wait to find out the ending… and when I did, I cried so much, both from happiness and sorrow.

This book is intense. I found myself questioning the motives and behaviour of several characters, and ended up being right about whether or not they were dangerous. Charles, for example, started out as a character that I could relate to, but he became more and more psychotic as the book went on, and I ended up loathing him by the end. What is more frightening as that people like him did exist, and do exist, and are in positions of power like he was.

So in between being frightened and concerned by Charles, there is a blossoming (though vaguely implausible and insta-loveish) romance blossoming between Ella and John, which was really quite cute, but yeah… the insta-love was real. He saw her running to escape and boom! In love. Sorry, not buying it completely. Their method of keeping their relationship going was very cute though, and I was both pleased and incredibly upset by the ending.

Hope got the atmosphere of pain, menace and filth in the asylum perfectly right, and it left me on edge the whole way through the novel. It really felt like anything could be around the next corner, similarly to Sarah Water’s atmospheric tension in Affinity or Fingersmith.  It was this aspect of the novel that really grabbed me, as I like being kept on edge in novels like this! I also love the setting  of a Victorian madhouse, prison, orphanage etc. at the best of times, so this really hit that spot for me!

I’ve purchased Wake to read at some point in the future, but I’m a bit afraid to read it… it’s dealing with  a topic so close to my heart that it could go two ways… I could find mistakes and pick the hell out of it and make myself angry, or I’ll adore it and wish I’d written it and fret over the fact that everyone is doing the thing that I want to do now and oh my god there’ll be nothing left for me *rolls up in a ball*

Anyway, I recommend this to anyone who loves historical fiction with a bit of a creepy twist, coz creepy is here in spades. Also to anyone who likes a bit of medical drama/historically accurate medical fiction, because based on my own research, Hope got it pretty much spot on.

3.5/5

Review: Castle Rackrent by Maria Edgeworth

61816951With her satire on Anglo-Irish landlords in Castle Rackrent (1800), Maria Edgeworth pioneered the regional novel and inspired Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley (1814). Politically risky, stylistically innovative, and wonderfully entertaining, the novel changes the focus of conflict in Ireland from religion to class, and boldly predicts the rise of the Irish Catholic bourgeoisie.

I can see why this book is so important in the history of women writers and political satire, however, I just found it quite a boring book. At least it’s a short boring book. There was little to interest the modern reader, and Thady Quirk was really not the most interesting of unreliable narrators.

Maria Edgeworth herself is a very interesting woman, and one whose works I would like to explore with more detail, in the vague hopes that it will be more interesting than this novella. Her writing really hasn’t translated well to modern life, and I think someone who was not familiar with the practice of rack renting and the absentee landlord system in place in Ireland during the 18th and 19th centuries would find this book completely boggling without further context.

Thady tells his story with quite a dull narrative voice, though there are parts where he is comically thick. The story of his son’s rise to riches is pretty implausible, though I kind of felt like he was one of the more reasonable characters, since he didn’t seem like a total idiot… money snatching and devious, but not as thick or cruel as others.

Regardless, I was glad to get this book over with, which didn’t take too long, since it’s only around 100 pages long, with extensive footnotes. I felt like there could have been magic there, but it fell pretty flat in comparison to less heavy handed satires of society at the time.

2/5 stars.

Review: My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem

154510581 Gloria Steinem—writer, activist, organizer, and one of the most inspiring leaders in the world—now tells a story she has never told before, a candid account of how her early years led her to live an on-the-road kind of life, traveling, listening to people, learning, and creating change. She reveals the story of her own growth in tandem with the growth of an ongoing movement for equality. This is the story at the heart of My Life on the Road.

I had never heard of Gloria Steinem before this book was featured as the January pick for Emma Watson’s “Our Shared Shelf” book club, but I saw the book at work and thought it looked interesting, so decided to give it a solid shot.

I did not expect to love it half as much as I did. I didn’t expect to learn new things and find it incredibly inspiring and enriching to my long stifled feminism. I feel that I’m okay to loudly and proudly say that I am a feminist, as I don’t believe that the movement is solely about shutting men down- far from it, I have no problem with most men. I have problems with a certain type or group of men, but I have similar problems with certain women. But anyway, I digress.

“Feminist” has become a pretty dirty word to a lot of people. I’ve had people who don’t even know me talk down about “man hating, ugly feminists” and expect me to agree with them. My ex boyfriend repeatedly told me he would dump me if I ever said I was a feminist, for heaven’s sake… now I wish I had, but it’s a long time ago now.

Gloria discusses these ideas of feminism and breaks down the attitudes that have brought them about. She also discusses wider topics, such as the civil rights movement, indigenous rights, advocacy, her nomadic childhood, mental illness and politics with great sympathy and great anecdotes. Her storytelling throughout the book is phenomenal- for example, she talks of her most interesting experiences with taxi drivers, and I really didn’t want it to end!

The book is strangely organised, but I didn’t have a huge issue with it. I felt some parts would have been better slotted into other chapters, or some chapters would have slotted in better before or after others, but in general I thought it was fine. I didn’t really like that she assumed the reader was American, but perhaps she didn’t expect the book to gain the global readership that it has attracted.

The book details Steinem’s achievements as an organiser and advocate, but focus is often shifted to those that have inspired her throughout her journey. A chapter about her amazing friend, Wilma Mankiller (what a name!), was beautiful and truly inspired me to try and be as calm and patient in my own bodily suffering as she was.

I took quite a long time reading this book, as I felt the need to stop frequently to digest ideas and wrote all over the margins, underlining and commenting on ideas and thoughts. My copy now looks rather manky, but luckily the dust jacket is still there to cover up my sins…. and regardless, I will be keeping this book to read over again, to pick up and reinforce ideas and to contemplate.

So my first ever book club pick has been quite the success, though I read it a month late. I probably won’t read The Colour Purple, which is February’s pick, right now as I just don’t have the time at the moment. It doesn’t help that I couldn’t get a copy through work either! The OSS people seem to have wiped out the supplier’s stock! Well done!

I’d seriously recommend this book to anyone wanting an inspirational and enlightening book, to any woman wanting to read more about feminism without it being too “radical” (definitely no bra burning in this one, and no man hating either!) and those interested in contemplation of a nomadic lifestyle.

4.5/5 and Leo with a wine glass, not an Oscar.

PHO159c23c2-9dcd-11e2-8503-c41494ecb8b1-805x453

February Wrap Up

This February I have stepped away from my blog for a fair while, as I just felt like my life has been too busy to sustain everything at once, and when I did have time, I just didn’t really feel like writing!

As for reading, I have read:

My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem (4 stars)

Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates (4 star… see a pattern emerging here?)

Castle Rackrent by Maria Edgeworth (2 stars)

The Ballroom by Anna Hope (3.5 stars)

Jane Austen by Claire Tomalin (4 stars)

Retro London by Lucinda Gosling (5 stars)

I also began and haven’t yet finished…

Middlemarch by George Eliot

The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen… though I may have started that in late January…

I feel like I haven’t read very much at all, but listing them all like that makes it look more impressive!

I also bought…

My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem

Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates

Wake by Anna Hope

Small Acts of Disappearance by Fiona Wright

Seeing Stars by Simon Armitage

I’m not sure what March will bring, but I’m sure it will be fun! Perhaps I’ll even get back into blogging more often…

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books to Read When You’re in Pain

Pain can get really old, really quickly. I like to use literature to take me away from it, but I’m not at all into the whole mindful, deep breathing, yoga self help books that are meant to help you to control pain. I just want to vent my frustration or to escape entirely from where I am in real life into a better place,or into a better person.

Depending on whether or not I want to calm down, I am more likely to pick up a book to help me overcome pain with rage, or to bring me cuddly peaceable feelings. So if you’re in pain, or even just angry, I’m going to offer both options, because sometimes, situations just call for them!

When you want to get rage-filled

Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates

21251323

There’s nothing more infuriating than sexism (to me anyway) and so this book will make you ready to take a chunk out of anyone who dares to be a total pig to you or anyone in your vicinity based on gender. Nothing like re-routing your anger into smashing the patriarchy!

Plus, if your pain is due to chronic illness, Bates covers it in her book, so you won’t feel left out and voiceless… which was a very satisfying feeling for me.

 

 

 

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

25735012

Nothing like a nice gory crime novel with some prime idiots to make you feel better.

Especially when Cormoran starts punching those prime idiots right in the face. Just imagine your pain into their position and BAM.

 

 

 

 

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

816815

 

People truly do suck in this book. From the racists to the sexists to the murderers, this book is full of people to direct your frustration at.

 

 

 

 

 

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

1573192

This book is the total opposite of that dreadful earworm that is the Lego movie theme… Everyone is dreadful, and everything is crap coz they’re evil freaks.

Yup.

No one in this book is much good.

At best, they’ll haunt you for twenty years and smash your window. At worst, they’ll  hang your dog, dig up your rotting corpse and ruin your child’s life. So there’s that.

 

 

Books to calm down over

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Anne Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer8013752

This book is too lovely for words. You’ll become happy and cry at the end with joy, guaranteed. This is a place hurting from war, but also a place full of joy and beauty.

 

 

 

 

 

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

51-3c6ufgsl-_sx327_bo1204203200_ Arthur Dent and his intergalactic co-conspirators are some of the funniest characters in the history of literature, and will definitely make your day, week, month and year. Plus, the books are really short, so re-reading is totally doable and there’s a whole series to devour!

 

 

 

 

 

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovich

61mbelfo6el-_sx324_bo1204203200_This series is also hilarious! I recommend it to anyone and everyone, and it will not fail to give you a smile. There’s so much awesomeness going on here!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Playing Beatie Bow by Ruth Park

9780670076864 This book is one of the ones I wish I’d read as a child, but I’m still so happy to have enjoyed it as an adult. This time travelling book is beautiful and historically interesting, and will take you into another world

 

 

 

 

Orkney by Amy Sackville

16057621

 

 

The writing in this beautiful novel is beyond words, and truly transports you to that beautiful island. I read this while having the gnarliest cold ever, and having a terrible time at university, but it helped me to escape from it all.

 

 

 

 

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson

511l2cetj1l_ss500_Sneaky entry here, but it’s so transportative and glorious to miss out on.

R.I.P Louise Rennison

Louise Rennison

Louise Rennison, author and comedian extraordinaire, has died at age 63.

Whilst is has been many years since I read the Georgia Nicholson series, I can safely say that it has remained in my heart as one of the top book series of my childhood/teenagerdom. I STILL quote the books at random, refer to certain guys as “sex gods” and still want a mad cat called Angus. I still have an irrational fear of false eyelashes due to this series!

My best friend and I used to adore her books, and talk almost entirely in Nicholsonian speak to each other, which I’m sure made us look as mad as mad things, but I care not. I read and re-read each book over and over again, giggling all the while. “And Then He Ate My Boy Entrancers” was the first book I read as an audio book, and I sat there on my bedroom floor, telling my parents that I was “cleaning”, whilst actually rolling about laughing into a pillow.

134431-ml-574203

 

Though I never did actually finish the series, as I’d kind of grown out of them by the time the last few were released, I will forever have fond memories, and hope that I’ll always keep a bit of Georgia’s hilarity, awkwardness and wit in me.

Thanks, Louise Rennison, for giving us all a laugh, teaching us about the facts of grownup life, our irreverent friend Georgia and the gloriousity of Angus. Thanks for the Sex God Robbie, Dave the Laugh, Jazzy, stoats, Libby’s “Sex Bum” rendition and for everything else, ever.

 

Review: The Midnight Watch by David Dyer

25666052As the Titanic and her passengers sank slowly into the Atlantic Ocean after striking an iceberg late in the evening of April 14, 1912, a nearby ship looked on. Second Officer Herbert Stone, in charge of the midnight watch on the SS Californian sitting idly a few miles north, saw the distress rockets that the Titanic fired. He alerted the captain, Stanley Lord, who was sleeping in the chartroom below, but Lord did not come to the bridge. Eight rockets were fired during the dark hours of the midnight watch, and eight rockets were ignored. The next morning, the Titanic was at the bottom of the sea and more than 1,500 people were dead. When they learned of the extent of the tragedy, Lord and Stone did everything they could to hide their role in the disaster, but pursued by newspapermen, lawyers, and political leaders in America and England, their terrible secret was eventually revealed. The Midnight Watch is a fictional telling of what may have occurred that night on the SS Californian, and the resulting desperation of Officer Stone and Captain Lord in the aftermath of their inaction.

Told not only from the perspective of the SS Californian crew, but also through the eyes of a family of third-class passengers who perished in the disaster, the narrative is drawn together by Steadman, a tenacious Boston journalist who does not rest until the truth is found. The Midnight Watch is a powerful and dramatic debut novel–the result of many years of research in Liverpool, London, New York, and Boston, and informed by the author’s own experiences as a ship’s officer and a lawyer.

This is one of those books that grabs you by the throat and won’t let go until you’re staying up way past your bedtime just so you can keep reading it.

I started reading this, feeling I needed a break after reading quite a few tough books in a row, and wanting something a bit fun and interesting. I’ve been obsessed with the Titanic ever since I first learnt about it way back when I was little. My little brother and I would pore over great big books about it, read any kids books featuring the disaster, watched all the documentaries and went to see several exhibitions on the ship. I visited the Titanic museum in Belfast and cried, buying my brother all the merchandise and books I could carry; if you’re ever in Belfast and have even a smidgeon of interest in it, I thoroughly recommend the museum!

Anyway, this book was going to be mine once I saw it on the ARC shelf and work, and it did not disappoint me at all.

I was instantly grabbed by the reporter, Steadman’s, introduction, which captivated me and dragged me straight into early 20th century Venezuela, and then Boston. I enjoyed his point of view immensely, though I wish it hadn’t been the sole POV through the whole 2nd portion of the novel. I enjoyed the switching between him and members of the crew of the Californian, who were experiencing the disaster on the water, whilst Steadman unearthed it from the offices of Cunard shipping.

Lord, the enigmatic captain of the Californian, remained a very difficult person to understand. I still don’t really understand why he acted the way he did that night, but that’s the point. His actions were thoroughly reprehensible, despite his suave exterior. You never see the disaster from his point of view, but only that of the people around him. He’s the destabilising feature of the novel as much as the wreck of the Titanic is.

The final section is told from the fictional perspective of Titanic passengers during the disaster. I do like how it is brought into the story, though in some ways I feel it could have been woven through it before a final reveal. Regardless, I was moved to tears and lay there contemplating the ending for hours… needless to say, I didn’t sleep much that night!

This book should be released in March or April, depending on your region, and I really do recommend getting your hands on it. I am really glad I took the chance and read it, because it would have been a shame to have it laying there unread any longer!

5/5 stars and a different Leo… because this is Titanic, not Gatsby!

tumblr_m3eikrrgfn1qg5hdfo1_250

Thank you to Penguin Australia for the ARC. This review is entirely my own opinion and is in no way affected by the fact that this is a review copy.